Council meetings

Agenda item

Cabinet Member Question and Answer Session


3.1       RESOLVED: That the responses provided be noted.


3.1       Councillor Bonavia gave a short presentation and the following key points were noted:


·         The way in which elections were run had improved significantly

·         Ways of further improving electoral registration were being considered

·         The Local Democracy Review would be producing a series of evidence based recommendations shortly, including recommendations for further work

·         The refugee resettlement programme would be expanded as part of establishing Lewisham as a borough of sanctuary; an independent review of the first programme was being carried out; and lots of work was being undertaken with volunteers in preparation. Housing would need to be procured for the new families and a refugee programme manager was being recruited to scale up available support.

·         The Shared Service had achieved significant IT improvements, although there was much more work still to be done to get IT fit for purpose.


3.2       In response to questions from Members, the following points were noted:


·         In order to reach “hard to reach” groups within the borough it was imperative for councillors to go to residents in the places they frequented as part of their daily lives, rather than expect residents to come to councillors.

·         There had been a number of telephone issues resulting from the switchover to the new phone system and the restacking of Laurence House and these would be investigated. Issues around the use of voicemail would be specifically looked into.

·         The implementation of Brexit held many uncertainties and should the UK leave Europe at a date post the European elections, UK MEPs may have their term of office extended until the date of departure.

·         The Democracy Working Group would be meeting representatives from Kirklees to learn from their experience and processes would be put in place to ensure that any recommendations from the review would be implemented and tracked. The precise details of how implementation would be monitored were still to be agreed.

·         The Local Democracy Review would consider the updated CIPFA guidance (2018) on audit committees and relevant recommendations with a view to assessing whether the best practice for audit committees put forward in the document should be adopted.

·         The Local Democracy Review was concerned with effective decision making and the ability of staff to implement the decisions made by political leaders. Related infrastructure requirements would be considered as part of the drive for better decision making.

·         Local Assemblies were being reviewed, with a view to making them more efficient and able to engage a wider spectrum of residents.

·         The Cabinet Member did not feel that the Head of Corporate Resources being the Section 151 Officer was a conflict of interest, given the additional duties he was undertaking whilst the Executive Director for Resources and Regeneration was acting as the interim Chief Executive.

·         The expansion of the refugee resettlement programme would take place slowly as it was crucial to get it right and learn from the families resettled so far. The first new families were expected to arrive in Spring 2019.

·         The Shared IT Service was shared between Brent, Southwark and Lewisham on an equal partners basis, but with Brent as the legal employer. It was clear that there needed to be more resilience locally in Lewisham.

·         In order to assess whether individuals were entitled to emergency relief, the Council had to engage with the Home Office and checking the immigration status of individuals was necessary to establish eligibility for this relief. It was not checked for any other reason.


3.3       Councillor Bell gave a short presentation and the following key points were noted:


·         The severe weather emergency protocol had been enacted and there was an action plan in place for each of the 14 rough sleepers identified in a recent street survey (which provided a snapshot of rough sleeping in the borough). 30 places were available for rough sleepers and officers were looking to extend the provision available at St Mungos.

·         A key priority for the Council was building 1000 new homes but this would take both time and expertise. 500 would be council properties and 500 owned by housing providers. A briefing for each ward would be provided covering: the location of each scheme and the proposed numbers and types of new homes that would be included.

·         Meetings had been held with housing providers in the borough to make it clear that lifetime tenancies were the Council’s preference.

·         A list of Tenants and Residents Associations would be provided to Members so that ward councillors could engage with their local associations.

·         Work to secure social housing as part of the re-location of Lewisham Library was ongoing.


3.4       In response to questions from Members, the following points were noted:

·         A briefing on the implications of the removal of the housing borrowing cap would be provided.

·         Viability Statements were, and would continue to be, published.

·         Information would be provided on how councillors can participate in street surveys of rough sleepers.

·         Any councillors with ideas around land that could potentially be used for housing should let the Cabinet Member or Strategic Housing have the details.

·         Information on the budget for repairs and maintenance within the HRA would be provided. It was important to maintain existing properties as well as build new ones.

·         Lewisham Homes was in the process of challenging some contractors as the standard of the work they carried out was not acceptable.

·         Information would be provided on plans for the ground floor of Place Ladywell, potential landbanking in the borough and potential unauthorised sub-division of Council Housing stock.

·         The Council would speak to other public sector owners of land in the borough with a view to potentially using their land for development, although the amount of land likely to be available would be small.

·         Rents at Tidemill would be as close to target rents as possible.

·         Interim Management Orders would be investigated.


3.5       Councillor Slater gave a short presentation and the following key points were noted:


·         Local Assemblies taking decisions on the use of Neighbourhood Community Infrastructure Levy (NCIL) funding was being investigated, as would the provision of a funding pot for small grants to fund projects outside of the scope of NCIL.

·         A decision on the feasibility of building a new Lewisham Library would be taken by the end of February.

·         An Accessibility Commission would be set up with a focus on co-production and lessons were being learnt from Hammersmith and Fulham’s Disability Rights Commission. A job specification for the Chair would be developed.

·         The 21 recommendations resulting from the Safer Stronger Communities Review into LGBT+ provision in Lewisham would be implemented and a progress report would be provided to that Committee in March.

·         It was hoped that a Private Renters Union would be established.


3.6       In response to questions from Members, the following points were noted:


·         Officers were enforcing provisions in the contracts for the leasing of community assets relating to maintenance of the buildings but if Members had any specific concerns these should be relayed to the Cabinet Member.

·         The Cabinet Member would be happy to meet a representative of the Lewisham Trade Union Council to discuss their concern over budget cuts and the adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism.

·         A briefing would be provided on options for the future of Lewisham Library.

·         It was important that a reputable, impartial organisation was engaged to help establish the private renters union and give private renters an enhanced voice.

·         The Cabinet Member would look into the “Out Late” Campaign with a view to supporting it.

·         The decline in footfall at Catford Library following the refurbishment works would be addressed.

·         The Cabinet Member would ensure that staff were not charged for a radar key for the proposed inclusive toilet for trans staff.


3.7       It was noted that a letter outlining the actions agreed to be undertaken by the Executive Members, would be sent to each Cabinet Member and a response expected.


3.8       RESOLVED: That the responses provided be noted.

Supporting documents: